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Communication and Mindfulness

Foundations for Effective Communication

Last month’s blog highlighted the need to speak up at the right time in project life to avoid problems and minimize the impact of those that are not avoided. In an earlier blog I discussed Improving Communication: Controlling Your Body Language and Tone.

This month we’ll explore communication techniques that can be used to make speaking up easier and more effective and enable the control needed to moderate behavior and speech.

Effective communication relies on mindfulness, emotional intelligence, right intention, basic facilitation skills, the right vocabulary and courage. Over the next few months we’ll explore these in the context of project work.


Let’s start with mindfulness, the ability to be consciously aware of what is happening in and around you. It implies clear, objective observation. Mindfulness is the foundation for effective communication. It enables emotional intelligence and the ability to facilitate. It enables you to choose the right words and behavior for each situation.  Increased mindfulness has also been shown to promote good health, better memory, concentration and enhanced performance in general.

Mindfulness is cultivated by mindfulness meditation. It is a very simple practice, just comfortably observing things like your own breath, feelings, thoughts and mental constructs (models, beliefs, opinions, etc.). These are objects of mindfulness. Additional objects of mindfulness are the way other people behave, what they say and how they say it. In effect anything that occurs in or around you can be an object of mindfulness.  By observing these phenomena as objects the mind is trained to become more objective.  Objectivity leads to better decision making and that leads to better performance.

For an instruction on how to do mindfulness meditation go to

Why Mindfulness is Important

Mindfulness is a key to communication because it makes it possible to be responsive rather that reactive. If when faced with a stressful situation a person can feel his or her feelings before reacting to them, then there is the possibility of choosing what to say and how to say it. 

The ability to see and feel the reactions of others to what one says and does makes it possible to shift behavior, body language, tone and the content of communication to get the kind of response one is looking for. 

When faced with a challenging situation in which the desire to speak up about a sensitive topic is being blocked by fear or lethargy, it is mindfulness that enables clear thinking to arrive at the optimal course of action.  It does so because it enables a “step back” that separates oneself from her feelings and provides the “space” to decide. 

Typically, people are so identified with their feelings and emotions that they do not have, or even think they can have, the ability to decide. Anger results in scowling or yelling; fear in withdrawal and avoidance.  One becomes stuck in his or her conditioning.

Mindfulness meditation gives the practitioner the ability to see experientially that there is choice; the ability to break old habits and respond creatively and appropriately in every situation. Anger is felt as anger, fear as fear, but these emotions are not immediately converted into unskillful behavior.

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George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.

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